Abu Dhabi deploys scanners in public places to detect covid in seconds



Data rights groups warn of privacy breaches and risks to vulnerable communities after Abu Dhabi deploys scanners at border crossings, shopping malls and other public places that could detect COVID-19 in seconds.

Abu Dhabi’s health department says EDE scanners can confirm COVID-19 infection by measuring an individual’s electromagnetic wave emissions, which it says are altered when the coronavirus is present, according to a report. June 27 statement from the Abu Dhabi media office.

The new system has rights groups and even some locals are worried.

“I went to a mall, and instead of a temperature scan, the (security guard) seemed to take a photo on a cell phone,” said Firas, a consultant who has lived in Abu Dhabi for nine months. and asked to use a pseudonym.

He said the guard informed him that the phone’s camera was not only testing its electromagnetic emissions, but also performing a retinal scan, which the guard said could tell him if Firas was vaccinated or had been tested. Recent PCR.

Firas suspected that the scanner was linked to the digital identification system used by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to allow residents to access their health records, visa applications and other official processes.

“This is the compromise you make when you come here. We have signed an agreement with this system in exchange for safety and security,” he said.

A Media Office spokesperson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that “scanners are not tied to any identification system and no one is identified when scanned,” adding that the system does not capture or store any personal data.

Authorities in the UAE have relied heavily on artificial intelligence for years, including facial recognition technology.

In 2018, Dubai Police launched a network of thousands of cameras – dubbed Oyoon, “eyes” in Arabic – to help them tackle crime in the emirate.

After the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, UAE police deployed smart helmets to scan temperatures of up to 200 passers-by per minute, while Dubai police pledged to post photos of anyone violating curfew restrictions without blurring their faces.

Matt Mahmoudi, technology researcher at Amnesty International, called this a “surveillance-service trade-off” often seen in smart cities.

“This particular type of facial recognition (the one deployed in Abu Dhabi) is of concern because mass surveillance technology risks violating people’s right to privacy,” he said over the phone.

The UAE is categorized as’ non-free ‘by US think-tank Freedom House, which said state internet surveillance was rampant, violated users’ right to privacy and did not appear to be regulated by “significant legal control”. “

This “opaque legal framework” could specifically lead to harassment of religious or sexual minorities in the largely conservative emirates, said Mohamad Najem, executive director of Lebanese digital rights group SMEX.

Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the nonprofit Gulf Center for Human Rights, also feared that the technology could lead to increased surveillance of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates, which the International Labor Organization says is home to the fifth largest migrant population in the world.

The deployment of Abu Dhabi’s new scanners “was not transparent,” Ibrahim said, demanding more details from the government on how the technology works, the role of facial recognition and whether security forces would have access to the results .

“These are all important questions that the decline in government transparency has not answered,” he said.

This story was posted from an agency feed with no text editing. Only the title has been changed.

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